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Joy as new Bible for a new Iran is launched

Relatives and close friends of Christians martyred in Iran rejoiced together in London recently at the launch of a new translation of the Bible into modern Persian ...

Relatives and close friends of Christians martyred in Iran rejoiced together in London this week at the launch of a major new translation of the whole Bible into modern Persian ...

The event was made all the more remarkable because of the recent transformation of the Church in Iran. At the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979, there were no more than 500 Christians from a Muslim background in the country.

Now Iran is thought to have the fastest-growing Church in the world.

Rev Dr Mehrdad Fatehi, Coordinator and Chief Editor of the new Bible, said: "This project is like raising a child. It has been 18 years of hard work but worth it for such an exciting day."

Some 20 years after Rev Tateos Michaelian was found shot dead, his widow Juliet was presented with the first copy of the Bible. The 20-year project was named The Michaelian Project, in honour of her husband – regarded as Iran's foremost Bible translator.

Rashin Soodmand's father Rev Hossein Soodmand was martyred in Iran in 1990. She also received a new Bible.

"I was crushed by my father's death but wanted to share Jesus with others," she said. "We had no scriptures so we wrote them out by hand and left them in taxis and restaurants. I prayed for Bibles for my city and country. God has answered my prayer."

"A very conservative estimate puts the number of Christians in Iran at 100,000," said David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries, publishers of the new translation. "The generally-accepted estimate is 370,000. Some believe there are 700,000, others more than a million."

David's father, Sam Yeghnazar, founder and director of Elam Ministries, said: "History shows that, whenever a new translation of the Bible is made available, the church has grown. Jesus said: 'I will build my church …'. Christianity has returned to Iran and no-one can stop this movement of the Holy Spirit. It is out of the control of human hands."

Despite restrictions and risks, Elam Ministries aim to print and distribute at least 300,000 copies in Iran over the next three years. Sam Yeghnazar believes that the dedication of the Bible in the company of hundreds of mainly leaders representing the Church worldwide, sends out a clear message to those who persecute Christians.

"In 2010 the Mayor of Tehran called evangelical Christians 'deviants'," said Yeghnazar. "The enemies of Christianity portray Christians who love the Bible as a cult-like sect. Alongside 500 or more mainly Christian leaders – including representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Vatican embassy, the Coptic Orthodox church, the Assemblies of God churches and many others – we are saying this view of Christians is wrong."

The gathering of the international church in London also sent out a timely message that the Middle East is Christian as well as Muslim.

"Though the event was joyful, we are sad it had to take place outside Iran," said Yeghnazar. "This event proves the worldwide Church will always bring the Scriptures to people, however 'closed' a country is meant to be."

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